Patti Hobbs, CG, New BCG Education Fund Trustee

One of our new BCG associates has recently joined the Board of Trustees of the BCG Education Fund. This non-profit charitable trust furthers BCG’s standards-based education goals. It funds lectures and workshops and provides incentives for study and scholarly research.

Patti Hobbs, CG

The trustees of the BCG Education Fund announce that Patricia “Patti” Lee Hobbs, CG, of Clever, Missouri, joins the board as a trustee. Patti is an accomplished genealogist specializing in DNA analysis and working with original records. She is particularly interested in genealogical education, as evidenced by her longtime position as Local History and Genealogy reference associate at the Springfield-Greene County Library District, where she has taught classes on genetic genealogy and traditional research methodology. This summer she will teach in the genetic genealogy course at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh.

Patti’s teaching and library experience, her skill as a webmaster for the ProGen Study Group, and her leadership roles with the Ozarks Genealogical Society all will benefit the BCG Education Fund going forward. We are fortunate to welcome a colleague of her caliber, and we look forward to working with her.

by Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL
on behalf of the BCG Education Fund Trustees

CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Welcome, Barbara Ball, CG

Earlier this month, BCG granted the designation of Certified Genealogist to Barbara Ball of Tucson, Arizona. SpringBoard invites readers to meet Barbara through this interview with editor Judy Kellar Fox, CG.

Who are you, Barbara?

Daughter of a psychologist and a Presbyterian minister, I was born in Montana and moved to Arizona as a toddler.  I’m a Westerner.  I was a tomboy, a motocross racer, and a bookish nerd.  I played the flute, marched in the band, rode horses, and read every book I could get.  I walked barefoot in the desert, loved the summer rains, and became a passionate nature and animal lover.

Barbara Ball, CG

As an adult, I’ve been a bookkeeper, medical transcriptionist, code writer, scientist, cartographer, genealogist, and lifetime student.  I have three university degrees.  I’m a wife, mother, and grandmother.  I still play the flute, do needlework, sew, quilt, play bridge, garden, do jigsaw puzzles, draw, read, and swim.

Tell us about how your academic career has informed your genealogical work.

I was a GIS (geographic information systems) analyst, mapping endangered species habitat.  I loved this work, which involved geographic location of plants and animals, analysis of historic maps, production of current maps, and spatial analysis of patterns found in migration and habitation.  Maps are so crucial to genealogists, and I suppose I will always strive to find a niche in the world of genealogy that involves incorporating more geography and demographics into our work. Oh, I could write a book.  Maybe I will.

You have already published an article about GIS for genealogists, right?

Yes, “Geographic Information Systems for Genealogists,” Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly (APGQ) 32 (June 2014), 78–81. Another is forthcoming in the June 2015 issue of APGQ.

Why do you pursue genealogical research?

Originally it was a fun hobby when I lost my university job.  After I completed the Boston University Online Certificate in Genealogical Research, I realized genealogy could be another career.  Now I see it as I did my academic work—a field of research that is just beginning to develop into a potential academic discipline on its own merits.  While I don’t know exactly how that might happen, I find it a fascinating possibility.  The field is rigorous enough to satisfy my need for academic/scientific discipline, not only in the research process, but also in the logically supported approach to solving a problem or reaching a conclusion.  The hypothesis-research-conclusions process appeals to me.  The field is wide enough to encompass those who just want to click on the leaf as well as those who want to engage in intellectual stretching.

How did you prepare for certification?

Education.  I went through the National Genealogical Society [NGS] American Genealogy: Home Study Course, then the Boston University course, then a ProGen Study Group.  I’ve attended the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy Advanced Evidence Practicum course every year it has been offered, and that has been extremely valuable.

About four months before my due date, I listened to a seminar by Judy Russell, J.D., CG, CGL, about writing the Kinship Determination Project [KDP].  She was adamant that you should never do a KDP without access to onsite research.  I was so unhinged that I immediately scheduled a last-minute and rather expensive trip to Ohio, where I spent four days in the basement of a county courthouse that I had been in already twice before!

Who are your genealogical heroes?

My personal heroes would be Angela McGhie and Kimberly Powell.  These two ladies are busy with their own work and their own lives, yet they always have time to offer support, encouragement, and a smile. They make the profession human. I can’t forget Harold Henderson, Michael Hait, and Melinde Lutz Byrne.  Thank you.

Generically speaking, as a former academic, I have a great deal of respect for those genealogists who have retired from their academic careers and brought that rigorous discipline into the genealogy field.

What is your most satisfying genealogical work?

I love building up a picture of a family system.  While producing the KDP required for my portfolio seemed akin to writing a master’s thesis, it was one of the most interesting things I’ve done.  I love solving a riddle, but more satisfying is just the continual process of describing a family and how their dynamics resulted in a particular descendant, whether it be a family member of mine or a client.

What’s your most frustrating work?

I have two ancestors from Ireland that drive me batty.  I also have a fellow named Ball that seemed to have dropped out of the sky.  My most interesting brick wall involves the members of a very tangled family in England. I have letters from them in my archives, and a whole book of unlabeled photos that I’m sure would help me straighten them out!

How do you see yourself in five years, Barbara?

My husband’s retirement hobby is photography, so I see us taking many trips to areas where I can do research and he can wander around any nearby wildlife areas taking pictures.  I would like to do more client work, and I really enjoy helping my friends with their family research. I hope to be able to move further into the professional realm of genealogy. I would like to do more mapping and spatial analysis projects, demonstrating the value of these tools, as well as writing articles that will be educational for other genealogists.

Congratulations on becoming a BCG associate, Barbara. Welcome!

 Barbara Ball, CG, can be reached at and

CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

BCG’s Newest Certified Genealogical Lecturer

David Ouimette is a busy man. As head of FamilySearch’s Content Strategy Team, he travels the globe analyzing and evaluating records of genealogical interest and determining where they fall in terms of acquisition priority. As father of eight children ranging in age from eighteen to twenty-eight, he balances his professional and personal lives to make time for playing Irish music on the harp, hammered dulcimer, and tin whistle; going bowling and golfing with his sons; and doing family history with his wife, Deanna. David is an author, lecturer, coordinator of the “Finding Immigrant Origins” track at Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, and a family historian who values standards. He regularly sets aside time to learn and to practice his skills in genealogical research, analysis, and writing.

First certified in February 2010, earlier this year David submitted his renewal portfolio—and, at the same time, he applied for the designation of Certified Genealogical Lecturer (CGL). On 1 June 2015 he received word that judges approved both applications.

Congratulations to David Ouimette, CG, CGL, on his accomplishments!

CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.


Two Changes to BCG Applications Effective 2016

The Board for Certification of Genealogists has authorized two significant changes in the certification process for new applicants. These changes will go into effect in 2016, when the new Application Guide is published. Briefly, for the first time (1) new applicants will be evaluated on their genealogically-related educational activities, and (2) new applications will be limited to 150 pages.

Evaluation of educational activities pertaining to genealogy

Genealogy standards 82 and 83 state that genealogists regularly engage in formal and informal development activities for four reasons: to better meet the standards, to learn more about useful materials, to enhance skills in reconstructing relationships and events, and to better present their findings to others.[1] Years of data also show that applicants with more genealogy education are more likely to produce successful portfolios for certification.

Accordingly, as is currently the case, applicants will be required to briefly describe the genealogy-related activities that help prepare them for certification. However, as is not currently the case, this section will now be evaluated. Genealogical-education activities will meet the evaluation criteria if they show that the applicant “has engaged in a variety of development activities aimed at improving genealogical standards attainment.”

This change adds one rubric to the evaluations of portfolios. The new rubric emphasizes the need for ongoing genealogy education. Failure to meet one specific rubric does not disqualify an application. Other questions currently asked in the resume will be eliminated.

Maximum portfolio length, 150 pages

The second change will reduce the size limit for new portfolios to a maximum of 150 pages total. The current limits were established when BCG had more requirements for certification than now. The new size limit provides ample room for applicants to demonstrate their abilities.

“These changes are part of BCG’s ongoing analyzing, evaluating, and refining the certification process,” said BCG president Jeanne Larzalere Bloom. “We hope that these two changes will streamline the process, make it more manageable for applicants, and encourage applicants to engage in a variety of genealogical-development activities before assembling a portfolio.”

For questions or more information, please visit  or contact Nicki Birch, CG, at

[1] Genealogy Standards (Nashville, Tenn.:, 2014), 43–44.

by Harold Henderson, CG

CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Harold Henderson, CG: Analyze or Else!

SpringBoard is pleased to offer a post by guest blogger Harold Henderson, CG. Harold has been a professional writer since 1979, a professional genealogist since 2009, and a Board-certified genealogist since June 2012. He lives and works in northwest Indiana, serves as a trustee of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, and has published in National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ), New England Historical and Genealogical Register, New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and elsewhere. His website is

Analyze or Else! by Harold Henderson, CG

Genealogists who meet standards do so in part by asking pointed, even impolite, questions about every document and piece of information they see. It’s called analysis. Genealogists who don’t meet standards do so by trusting everything they see, and not asking questions. And anyone who is still this trusting is not ready to apply for certification.

As ambitious genealogists, we need to know how to analyze sources. We need to do it all the time—and we need to feel queasy when we don’t. The example that follows involves no difficult problem, requires no unusual skill, and would not normally appear in a peer-reviewed genealogy journal. It shows the pitfalls of trusting the first source we find and the benefits of carefully analyzing all information from all sources.

Eliphas Thrall gravestone, courtesy of Jennifer Alford

Recently I wanted to document Eliphas Thrall’s birth date. His grave marker in Ohio gives his death date (19 March 1834) and his age at death (65 years, 8 months, 19 days).[1] This information does not determine a single definite birth date. Different methods of subtracting produce slightly different birth dates for Eliphas, between 28 and 30 June 1768.[2]

Case closed? No. I did not ask myself, “Is this true or false?” And if I had it wouldn’t have helped much. Sometimes grave markers and statements of age are mistaken, and sometimes they aren’t. I had to get down to a deeper level and consider the factors that would make the birth date more likely to be one or the other.

Whoever provided the information for the marker probably was not present for Eliphas’s birth in New England, and probably knew Eliphas’s birth date only by hearsay. That person might also have taken Eliphas’s supposed birth date and gone through a complex calculation, filled with chances of error, to figure his age at death. Could I find a way to get information about the birth that is closer in time to the event, more likely to come from an eyewitness?

I knew the family came from Connecticut and had lived in western Massachusetts. The published vital records of Granville, Massachusetts, give Eliphas’s birth date as 23 June 1767—more than a year earlier than the calculated dates from the grave marker.[3]

Case closed? Not. The book was published in 1914. Some conscientious twentieth-century person read through the Granville birth records (or a copy), and summarized them. Then they were typeset. That leaves plenty of chances for mistakes. So this handy, easily read published list is a derivative source. What do I do with a derivative source? Try to find what it’s derived from.

Do the original birth records for Granville survive from around 1767? Not only do they survive, they’re on line.[4]

The 1914 summarizer didn’t make any mistakes that I can see, but some information was lost in the process. The original lists the children in chronological order with a note in the middle making it easier to see that Eliphas was the last child born in Windsor, Connecticut, and his brother, two years later, was the first in the family to be born in Granville, Massachusetts. The handwriting also enables me to see that the entire list down to James was written in the same hand and with the same pen, no doubt at the same time—after the birth of Mary in 1775 and before the birth of James in 1778, which is in a different hand. So now I know that Eliphas’s birth date was written down, perhaps at the dictation of his father, between those two dates, before Eliphas had grown up.

Looking at the adjoining pages suggests that some of the top-of-page entries like the Thralls’ may have been made in sequence in the 1770s, with space left on the lower part of each page for additional children. Evidently in time a clerk went back and saved paper by filling the blank spaces with later entries.

What did my questions get me? Higher-quality evidence than I would have had if I had settled for the grave marker or the 1914 publication. The Granville record is not contemporaneous with Eliphas’s birth, but it is as close as I have been able to come so far. The Granville informant was much more likely to have been around when Eliphas was born than the tombstone informant. So unless and until new evidence appears to corroborate either 28–30 June 1768 or 23 June 1767 (and it may appear as I follow Eliphas to Vermont and Ohio), the chance of the 1768 date being wrong is greater.

This chase would have been worthwhile even if all three sources agreed right down to the day. The point is to look as hard as we can—and in genealogy that does not mean staring at the page until our eyes cross. It means recognizing that there are more questions to be asked and often more and better records to find.

Analysis is not a frill—and not always this straightforward. It is at the heart of what we do.

[1] Find A Grave, database with images ( : accessed 10 June 2015), memorial 19,659,389, Eliphas Thrall (d. 1834), Old Colony Burying Ground, Granville, Licking County, Ohio.

[2] RootsMagic and give 28 June; gives 30 June. The late lamented Master Genealogist program always indicated the result was approximate. A very full explanation is Barbara Levergood, “Calculating and Using Dates and Date Ranges,” NGSQ 102 (March 2014): 51–73. The inevitable variance is discussed on p. 52.

[3] Vital Records of Granville, Massachusetts, to the Year 1850 (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1914), 85; Internet Archive ( : viewed 10 June 2015).

[4]  Town of Granville (Massachusetts), Town Records, Births, Marriages, Deaths 1751-1786, Samuel Thrall family, p. 114; digital image, FamilySearch  ( : viewed 10 June 2015).

CG and Certified Genealogist are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Free BCG Webinar: Teresa Steinkamp McMillin, CG, on Unraveling a Family Yarn

On Tuesday, 16 June 2015, Teresa Steinkamp McMillin, CG, will present “Truth or Fiction? Unraveling a Family Yarn” at 8:00 pm EDT.

A recording of this webinar is available for a small fee from Vimeo.

Family lore told of George Teeling, a nineteenth-century Irish immigrant in Chicago. Researching the tale surrounding him proved that much of the story was false. Genealogical sleuthing led to many surprising discoveries, perhaps more interesting than the original family tradition. This engaging lecture will discuss the research process, a wide array of sources, and overcoming anglicized names to arrive at the truth about George Teeling and his family.

Teresa Steinkamp McMillin, CG

Teresa Steinkamp McMillin, CG, specializes in German American and midwest research as well as reading German script. Her focus has also been on Chicago research. The Teeling story comes from her husband’s family.

Teresa has been interested in genealogy since she was a child. She is a multi-year attendee of the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research and the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. A member of the Association of Professional Genealogists, the National Genealogical Society, and many local genealogical societies, she also serves as webmaster for the Northwest Suburban Genealogy Society in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Recently Teresa published Guide to Hanover Military Records, 15141866, on Microfilm at the Family History Library.

Attendance is limited for this free webinar. Once registered, please sign in early to avoid disappointment.

Register for Teresa Steinkamp McMillin, CG, “Truth or Fiction: Unraveling a Family Yarn,” on 16 June 2015, 8:00 pm EDT (7:00 CDT, 6:00 MDT, 5:00 PDT) at:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. For more information contact

“We are pleased to offer this informative webinar,” said BCG president Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CG. “The Board for Certification of Genealogists strives to foster public confidence in genealogy by promoting an attainable, uniform standard of competence and ethics. Educating all family historians is part of this mission.” Please visit the SpringBoard webinar page to learn about BCG’s previous webinars.

CG and Certified Genealogist are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Skillbuilding: Mills on Using the FAN Club with the GPS and DNA

SpringBoard, an official blogger for the 2015 NGS Family History Conference, is pleased to offer a review of this Skillbuilding lecture, presented Friday, 15 May 2015:

F311: Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA, “FAN + GPS + DNA: The Problem-Solver’s Great Trifecta,” reviewed by Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL.

This lecture’s program brochure description reads, “Can you really ‘prove’ a maternal line when, for four straight generations, absolutely no document identifies a parent or sibling? This session shows you how.” And does it ever!

Mills begins with an explanation of the acronyms in her lecture title and their concepts:

  • Studying a woman’s FAN (friends, associates, and neighbors) club requires following the males in her life and involves anyone within her lifetime contacts.
  • The GPS (Genealogical Proof Standard) includes reasonably extensive research—not just searching for a document that may not exist. Careful and targeted research should pull together bits and pieces to form the larger puzzle picture. Careful recording and skilled analysis are integral to the GPS, as are resolution of any conflicts and a written proof argument to explain the analysis and conclusion.
  • Y-line, mitochondrial, autosomal, and X-chromosome DNA-test results enable the genealogist to scientifically assess the conclusions reached on the basis of the FAN club research and the GPS.

With her audience understanding the tools, Mills builds a case using them. First she relates some of the missteps of her earlier genealogical years, such as ignoring records from those in the subject’s FAN club. Who would have thought that the key to breaking the case was an orphan’s sister’s husband’s stepmother’s sister’s father’s second wife?  Mills also gives tips for working in burned counties, such as reading every page of surviving and reconstructed records—even those for the time period after the family moved away.

Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA

As the story of the research unfolds and the wonderful charts are presented and explained, readers of National Genealogical Society Quarterly hear a ring of familiarity. Part of Mills’s story was published there and in multiple research reports on Mills’s Historic Pathways website.[1]  The reports lay out the FAN-club research that could not be included in the published article. After years of research, only two of the four generations of Mills’s reconstruction met the GPS, in her view. At this point DNA evidence was needed.

After running tests on herself and her brother, Mills proceeded to contact all DNA and surname matches. Through her research, she identified descendants of a suspected sister in each hypothetical generation and asked each to do mitochondrial and autosomal DNA tests. The descendants matched on all defined markers. The resulting triangulation of multiple lines of descent supported the reconstructed lineage through four generations of women, even though paper research can prove only Mills’s connection to her grandmother.

In the end it took FAN + GPS + DNA to make a solid case: FAN to find the massive amounts of data; GPS to test the theories; and DNA evidence to add scientific confidence to the conclusions. Laid out in understandable terms and with the visual diagrams needed to track the research progress, Mills hit the trifecta of giving her audience an understandable case study in proof, evidence, and techniques.

“FAN + GPS + DNA: The Problem-Solver’s Great Trifecta,” session F311, was recorded by Jamb Tapes, Inc.

In addition, this lecture is part of Track 2, “Methodology Techniques,” of the NGS On-demand Live-streaming package. It can be purchased at:, with access through 10 August 2015.

[1] Elizabeth Shown Mills, “Testing the FAN Principle against DNA: Zilphy (Watts) Price Cooksey Cooksey of Georgia and Mississippi,” NGSQ 102 (June 2014): 129–52. For the eight underlying reports that have been posted, see Elizabeth Shown Mills, Historic Pathways (, “Research” tab, “Genealogical Reports: Cooksey.”

CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.